~~Here, have a handy gap for those not wanting to accidentally spoil this~~
Astraeus, Coeus and Anahit waited impatiently outside of the Bureau of the Architect. As always, Azem had gone ahead, summoning the three to meet outside once the Words of Lahabrea had had a chance to be spoken to. Not that they were complaining. None of them liked dealing with too many questions.
“I wonder what troubles the world now?” Coeus was anxious as ever, adjusting his mask.
“Something big. I hope.” Anahit hopped from foot to foot, warming up.
“Spoiling for a fight already? We only just got here!” Astraeus shook his head and gently stroked the head of the great cat that lounged at his side. Arroul purred loudly.
“Always.” She flexed her arms. “Never get much chance to in this peaceful life eh.”
“Maybe we should be happy about that.”
“Maybe you should just go back and nap.”
“What, do you resemble that comment?”
Before Astraeus could retort he caught sight of Azem returning, eagerly brandishing a glowing red crystal held firmly within a latticed iron construct. “…Azem! We came as soon as we heard. What can we do? What do you need us for?”
“Good to see you!” Beneath the mask, Azem beamed brightly. “Need your help. Remember that island I told you about?”
“The one with the volcano?”
The three looked at each other. “…I thought that was all settled?” Anahit ventured. “You know…with…everyone evacuating..”
“That’s the one! We’re going. Got my little friend Ifrita here who I think will help us out just fine.” Gleefully Azem lifted the crystal.
“Erm-” Coeus rubbed the back of his head. “…Azem, weren’t we just…letting that blow up?”
“Well, yes, that was the plan!” Waiting for no one Azem kept going, calling them over. “But then I forgot!”
“The grapes, Astraeus! That’s my favourite wine, remember? I’m not losing it for a few centuries. Unthinkable!”
The three gawped.
“…Do you have a plan?” Astraeus dared to venture.
“Yes. Sort of!” Azem was already on the move, not waiting for them to catch up. “It’s fine. We’ll wing it on the way!”
The three watched him go, for a moment speechless.
“….Grapes?” Anahit said, flatly.
“Grapes.” Astraeus took off his mask to rub his forehead.
“Azem dragged us all out here…for grapes?!”
“You cannot be serious.” Coeus facepalmed.
“When is Azem not serious.” With a groan Astraeus patted Arroul’s side, encouraging the big cat to get up. “Come on boy. We need a better hobby…”
I’ve mentioned it before, but I love making up Miqo’te lore. And if there is one thing that all Miqo’te have as a single defining piece of their history - Seeker and Keeper alike - it is the Fifth Umbral Calamity of Ice.
When Mis’to - who comes from an old clan that has a strong oral tradition of stories - speaks of the Fifth Calamity he refers to it as the Long Cold. Essentially a long Ice Age, those who survived the Calamity of Ice and the following mass migration along the aetherical leylines to Eorzea would have surely have created a rich tapestry of tales and mythology from what would have been an incredibly difficult and cruel time.
Myths are wonderful things, because often a myth has in it a grain of truth that helps impart wisdom to another generation. Here I’m going to share one set of those myths I’ve come up with when looking at this period of time; specifically, around stories that would have helped a Miqo’te survive the cold. A modern Eorzean scholar could hear these tales and recognize them as an attempt to explain and recognize the onset and progression of hypothermia, and rationalize bizarre behaviors like paradoxical undressing and terminal burrowing.
This sort of stuff is very fun to research and think up.
But without further ado - learn of the shar’thok, these soul-devouring spirits that hounded the ancestors of the Miqo’te throughout the Long Cold.
Shar’thok - Spirits of the Long Cold
The shar’thok are deadly, invisible, untouchable spirits that followed the migrating Miqo’te, hoping to pick off the unwary and vulnerable to feast on their minds, their warmth, and even their soul. They thrived in cold, but could easily be warded off by keeping warm and properly dressed, and staying together in a clan.
The fichsi’sa (f-hiss-si’sa) were mischievous but harmless spirits that would make a Miqo’te’s muscles dance; fichsi being the word for shiver. The appearance of fichi’si is an early warning that a Miqo’te should seek warmth and shelter, before the more malicious spirits arrive.
Dis’nenta prowled for a Miqo’te not wise enough to heed the fichsi’sa and would settle in a Miqo’te’s mind as their body cooled. There they would begin to devour their consciousness, making them confused, disorientated and irritable.
Left to dance undisturbed, fichsi’sa would continue to feed on the Miqo’te’s heat and grow into fichkor’sa. Far stronger in this form, these spirits make muscles dance uncontrollably and in spasms, sometimes so much so that muscles lock and become unresponsive or even cause a Miqo’te to collapse. A Miqo’te overcome by fichkor’sa also risked the dis’nenta growing even stronger, reducing their state of consciousness.
Zyae’chau feed upon heat and as such seek out areas exposed or vulnerable to the cold, particularly the fingers, toes, tail and ears. An attacking zyae’chau would first turn the flesh red and tingly, then swollen and painful, until finally the attacked area was left black, and blistered. It is much easier to dislodge a zyae’chau if caught early and the exposed flesh heated back to warmth. The clamor caused by fichkor’sa and dis’nenta encourage zyae’chau to feed, but these indiscriminate spirits will attack anyone foolish enough to not dress properly in the cold.
Miqo’te not properly exorcised of these spirits could fall prey to the dreaded kayown. Kayown are especially cruel spirits that wait for a freezing Miqo’te to become drowsy and semiconscious. Then they would breathe fire into their veins, making them feel desperately hot and sweltering. They would then strip off their clothes in a desperate need to cool down, whereupon the kayown would possess them and take them to a small place to hide away and die, ensuring that they would never be found in time by their loved ones.
The more feared spirits of all, the hala’mur were the strongest of all the shar’thok. They desired to eat Miqo’te souls but could not do so before the kayown had successfully entombed a victim. Instead they directed their lesser spirits to attack and isolate the vulnerable and foolish. Then, the hala’mur would claim it and devour the Miqo’te’s soul.
A soul so devoured by a hala’mur became an inar’mur; a feeble shade doomed to eternally follow it’s kin, trying vainly to find its way home. On a cold windy night the inar’mur would call after their loved ones, unable to see them and desperately wanting to be among them. Young Miqo’te were taught never to stray from their fellows, for the tragic inar’mur was an unwitting accomplice to other shar’thok.
Dalamud was falling.
An ominous presence since the scholars had first noticed the brightening light the red moon hung low in the sky, outshining all else. Fearful eyes turned upwards as shards of the moon began to fall, their path lighting the clouds with a scarlet glow, exploding into great plumes of fire as they struck the lands of Eorzea.
Her baleful presence could no longer be ignored.
Yet on the plains of Carteneau, ignore it they had to.
Armies clashed upon the battlefield, the forces of Eorzea against the VIIth Legion, the Alliance desperate to put a stop to the ever encroaching threat of Garlemald even as Dalamud hung low and angry in the sky, turning the ground the color of blood.
One line broke, the Adders falling back as the Imperials surged forwards, cutting down those in their path. One ran through a lancer before charging forward, pushing for the healer they had spotted in their midst. The other lifted the staff and the soldier wove to the side, expecting a blast of magic; only for said staff to come smacking right into his gut. Once, twice in the ribs and then a heavy smack on the head, sending him flat on the ground. Not a moment then for another Adder to spring forward and end him.
With a grimace Mis’to quickly bent down, pressing a hand against the fallen Adder as Captain Varen charged forward to protect them both, the grizzled old Elezen reaching out his spear defensively as his gruff voice called out. “Reform, hold the line! Move!” Like lightning the rest of the squadron closed around and where the line had broken it was whole once more.
No words were needed as the Miqo’te offered a hand to the healed lancer, helping her to her feet. The woman gave him a quick nod before taking her own spear and moving back to the rest, Mis’to hot on her heels. Onwards they pushed, their Captain directing them with quick precision, clearing a path towards the magitek walkers so that the archers and thaumaturges behind them could strike, arrow and bolt flashing overhead. Between them all Mis’to’s aether danced as he brought the power of his Echo to bear, his soul resonating alongside theirs as healing magicks wove through them. It was a fearsome thing he had as even with his eyes closed he was able to follow them close behind, moving with trance-like fluidity as the resonance filled in his sight even as it pinpointed wounds to him. Gunshot and slashes alike healed near the moment they landed; a soldier would be stricken only to have him spring to their side and bring them back up in moments without so much as a faltering step.
For a moment the noise of battle lessened and Mis’to paused, taking in the blood and chaos, the red moon bathing the battleground in it’s ominous light. It was a moment until he saw why the battle had ebbed; for all faces were turned upwards as the moon suddenly glowed with fierce blue light.
And then he was on his feet, thrown back and knocked breathless as the shockwave reverberated through the air, his ears throbbing in pain. For moments he lay there stunned, his brain struggling to make sense of what had happened. Choking he pulled himself up to his elbows, stared at the incomprehensibly tall structure that lay where the Garleans had been not moments ago, its glowing blue light barely visible through the spreading dust. At the angry moon directly above, and the gaping hole that lay in it’s surface.
“Varen?” he cried out, grabbing his staff and pulling himself upwards, shaking himself out of the remnants of his trance. “Torzian?” He could still feel them, resonating with his aether faintly. Alive, then. “Wha-“
The red moon glowed gold, lightning flashing over the surface. Wings emerged. Immense. Monstrous.
Paralyzed he could only stare upwards, uncomprehending.
A loud reverberating roar, and the moon exploded.
He had only time to raise his hands before his consciousness was devoured in cacophony and fire. Some vague part of his mind registered agonizing pain across his right shoulder but it was quickly lost as darkness fell over him. Light returned in searing fire and deafening sound, the panicked screams of survivors fleeing the battle and shocked moans of the dying. All round, everything burned.
Somehow he dragged himself to his feet, swapping his staff to his left hand when his right wouldn’t grip it properly. He managed two feet before stumbling, got back up. Right eye wouldn’t open; he brushed unthinking at it, leaving a smear of blood across his face. Ash choked his throat and he coughed on the burning dust. “Va-Varen…?! Sennia?” Flames lapped at his robe as he staggered forward, trying to find his squadron in the ruins. Their aether had gone. He couldn’t reach them. “Elemay?!”
“Mis-” a faint gasp reached him.
“Torzian-” He fell down next to him, hands already reaching out with healing magics. “What-“
An ear-splitting roar broke the sky as the Primal took flight. Brilliant streaks of aether cut through the sky, following the great dragon like a whirling storm before weaving away. The world burned once more and Mis’to could only curl over the body of his fallen friend and pray.
A faint sob broke the spell, the man below him weeping in fear. When it all died somehow they were both still alive, in a sea of blackened bodies and burning sky. The heat was near unbearable.
Staying here meant death; that much his shattered mind could grasp. Without a word Mis’to hauled the other onto his shoulder, ignoring the blood slowly staining his robes red. One foot in front of the other, following those who had already fled. Somewhere in the distance, blue magics rallied against the red, but he could pay it no heed.
“Stay with me,” he murmured, feeling the other’s aether waver against his.
“Mis-” The man coughed, blood dripping from his mouth. “They’re….everyone…”
They were gone. The rest were all gone. Merciful quick deaths. But gone. His heart ached, but he could not stop.
“Torzien stay with me…”
The great Primal lowered down, beating back the cloud with immense wings, facing one that dared challenge it. The man grew weaker. He could feel him sagging.
“Torzien – keep talking to me-“
Hurriedly Mis’to put the man down, pressing his hand against his as he let his aether resonate with his. That awful feeling as the man’s aether struggled to flee a dying body. In the distance, great spires of light sprang to life.
“No please – Torzien – stay with me-” In desperation he reached out, clung to what he could while vainly trying to heal the man’s mortal wounds. “Torzien!”
Blue light turned to red as the last Torzien’s aether fled from him; a sickening lurch as his soul returned for the lifestream and threatened to drag Mis’to with it. A few flashes of regret, of beloved family, and then, nothing.
Heaving he fell over the man, shaking from the effort. From grief. For a moment he couldn’t bring himself to move, unable to leave the bodies of those he had called comrades and friends for near two decades, unwilling to leave them to the fire. All while the world continued to burn, the Primal’s roars echoing dimly in his ears.
Numbly he found his feet. Staggered forwards. Somewhere he found another poor soul, dragging them up. By the time they reached the relative Gridania, she too would be dead. She and Torzien, the first of countless many.
The battle would only be the beginning. The wounded would only continue to pour in, survivors from Carteneau and the devastation both moon and Primal had wreaked.
In the coming months Mis’to fought to save as many as he could. But where once perhaps one had died in a hundred saved, now perhaps only one in ten would live. Each time that awful lurch, of staring into the abyss where all souls must go, feeling their last regrets and dying memories.
He forced himself through, for if he hesitated, only more would die.
Barely a week when he felt that first twinge, as Mis’to ran to the side of another.
Fear of that awful feeling, that reminder of mortality. The surge of memories that comes with some souls, their dying cries of regret or memories jumbled and feverish from shock and imminent death.
And yet he pushed on, shook his head at those who would intervene, because he knew that if he stopped, people who would otherwise live will die. Because his Echo makes him one of the best. It’s worth losing ten when you can save one, he told himself. Over and over.
It’s weeks. Near two months.
The worst is over. No more burns, no more dying.
It’s just routine. A simple check. A boy who broke his arm playing.
He holds out his hand, his staff. As he’s done countless time before.
His mind’s eye floods with the dead, the dying, the sickening lurch of a soul fleeing for the hereafter. The crimson red of a falling sky.
He can’t do it.
The Roegadyn nodded. “That’s him.”
X’ruhn Tia adjusted his hat as he squinted out across the foggy Mor Dhona morn, the haze tinging everything with a soft lilac hue. He could just about pick out the figure in the distance, staring over the still lake. The elder Seeker furrowed his brow, stroking his chin thoughtfully.
He and Loetwyb had been speaking early that morn, a rare moment to catch up with an old friend. Their paths had crossed several times in the course of their lives, and she had an uncanny knack for picking out those with interesting stories to tell. Naturally, when her eye had followed an older Miqo’te as he headed out into the dawn, he had to inquire. “Who is that?”
“Hasn’t told me his name.”
“Really.” X’Ruhn frowned. “So how do you know him?”
“Pulled him half-dead off the battlefield of Ghimlyt.”
The Miqo’te nearly spat his drink over the table. “…Come again?”
Loetwyb chuckled. “Well let’s just say that when I first saw him striding across the battlefield alone sword in hand, I was either going to see a massacre or magic.”
“Let me guess. You got-”
“Are you just going to echo me all night, old cat?” She smirked as X’ruhn snorted and shook his head, though her gaze soon turned pensive. “…Had a feeling when I saw him that it was someone looking to die. You don’t walk out like that intending to come out the other side. You don’t fight like that if you intended to live. No. He went out there to die, and he made sure that a man was going down with him. And let me tell you, it was magic to watch that massacre.”
X’ruhn frowned, looking towards the door, still open from where the other had slipped through. “…But he didn’t die.”
“Made a hell of a try let me tell you. Made straight for a Centurio, cut down any fool Garlean that came close, then ran the leader through and held him down in the flames that burned them both. Wasn’t a soul alive by the time I reached him, save him. Barely.” Her gaze followed his to the door. “Not even sure what possessed me to go over. Needed to see the end of the story with my own two eyes, you know?”
The old Miqo’te closed his eyes. ”…Except the story didn’t end…”
And so they had followed.
The Seeker frowned, one hand running over the elegant focus of Murgleis. “Will he even listen?”
“Who knows. But I suspect you, of all people, might know something of where to start.” Loetwyb turned to eye him. “I think he’s a good man. Honest. One that just needs to find a purpose again. And surely of all people, the one-time last remaining Crimson Duelist would understand what it means to start over from what seemed certain finality?”
X’ruhn chuckled and shook his head. “All right, all right already, I’m going over. Wish me luck.”
“Not wishing you shite, old cat. You make plenty luck of your own.”
Shaking his head wryly he adjusted his hat before striding forward. Loetwyb was, as ever, incorrigible.
“Good day, friend!” he called out as he reached the other, adjusting his coat slightly. The man didn’t move, though he saw an ear turn in his direction. “A fine foggy morning, is it not, my fellow Miqo’te?” That got a slight huff, which he chose to take as an encouraging sign. “Might I have the pleasure of your name?” No response again , and that he’d expected. Stepping to the other’s side he crouched down on his haunches, wanting a better look at the man he was trying to win over. A Keeper then, dark-skinned and grey hair - well, what hair hadn’t been burned away. Poor sod. Wounds looked painful. Though not as painful as that empty stare in one silvery eye.
X’ruhn simply sat for a while, content to enjoy watching the sun rise slowly in the eastern sky. “I understand they found you out on the Ghimlyt.” Again nothing, save the slight flex of one hand. “Singlehandedly slaying three dozen Garlean troops and their Centurio with them.” He glanced over again. Still no reaction. Time to make his point. “…That’s the tale I heard from one who saw, friend. The finale, at least. Tell me thought - you meant to die out there on the battlefield that day. Didn’t you?” That made him turn, the Keeper flicking one silver eye to him, the other still hidden under bandages. “I thought so. And yet here you are. What do you do now, hmm?”
“I don’t know.” The other’s voice was raspy, one hand gently running over the red neckerchief over his throat.
“Maybe you would hear a man’s offer out?” X’ruhn got a faint grunt in response, and that would have to do. “I hear that you are quite the swordsman - and I can sense you’ve some ability with magic also. T’is rare to find someone with a knack for both. You could do well, trained in the ways I know. Might help you find a reason to start anew.”
“No. I won’t fight again.”
“I don’t think that’s entirely true. A man willing to do as you did is not one to put down the blade so quickly.” X’ruhn tilted his head. “…I tell you what. Why don’t you give me a week. If you truly don’t wish to fight, you’ll know by then. And my curiosity will at least have been sated, eh?”
The Keeper hesitated, and for a moment, X’ruhn saw something flash across his face. “A….week?”
“A week. No more, No less. I’ll show you a little of the ways of the Crimson Duelists…and then you decide if you want more. Or nothing at all.”
Of all the responses he had expected, the answer was not a sudden laugh. But a laugh it was, and like magic that blank expression suddenly cracked, the other blinking rapidly at some unbidden but clearly fond memory. “…And I can walk any time?” he murmured, resting a hand on his brow.
“…Why would you even teach me?”
X’ruhn tipped his hat. “I hate seeing good potential wasted. And besides,” He smiled again, more gently. “…I enjoy bringing hope to those who need it.”
The other shook and for a moment X’ruhn feared he had upset the man; but no, he was laughing once more even as he blinked away tears. “…Ah Menphina, why do you not give up on this stupid old fool,” he murmured, shaking his head.
“The Twelve hate giving up on old fools, let me tell you.” X’ruhn smiled wryly. “Deal, then?”
“…Deal.” The other looked at him fully, the faintest hint of a smile on his face. “…So what do I call you, then?”
“You may call me X’ruhn.” He got up and took that hat off with a flourish, before offering a hand to help the other to his feet. “And you?”
Gladly he took it. “…Mis’to.”
“Well Mis’to my good sir, a pleasure to meet you. T’is my fervent wish that the ways of red magic suit you.” The old Seeker grinned again. “Your choice to make, of course.”
“…Red magic huh.” That one silver eye glanced upwards. “…Comes with a heck of a fancy red hat.”
Chuckling, X’ruhn brandished it once more. “Oh, absolutely.”
Mis’to shuffled around the markets, trying to throw surreptitious glances at the flowers.
Silly, really. He should just go up, buy some flowers, and be done.
But were they the right flowers? Did Morgana like flowers? Did she like *those* flowers? Did he, a Keeper, look silly buying flowers?
No, no one in Limsa was paying him attention. But he still felt like a fool, picking out flowers like some lovesick ninny.
Well, he was a lovesick ninny, but not the point.
In the end, he chose a simple small bunch, a cluster of tiny blue and pink flowers that practically cascaded out of the bouquet.
Now to go and shuffle outside her door.
Kayah’a watched intently, crouching down behind the bush. Eyes fixed on his prey, he could barely keep himself still; the tip of his tail twitching from side to side.
A little closer.
A little closer….
With a loud yell he leapt out, barreling into the Miqo’te passing by. With a yell the other turned and grabbed him, the pair of them rolling over and over in the grass as both sought to get an edge on the other. Now Kayah’a was on top, laughing madly as he managed to pin the other down; only to yelp as the other managed to break the lock on his arms and wriggle free, promptly twisting around onto his back. The boy struggled fiercely but to no avail. “No fair! I had you!”
The other laughed, ruffling his hair. “You nearly did you little shite!”
“Noo uncle Mis’to! Stop!” He wiggled helplessly as the other mercilessly rubbed his head, his blond locks turning into a terrible tousle. “Aaaah! Enough! I yield!”
Laughing uproariously Mis’to rolled off him, only to oof as the ever exhuberant Kayah’a threw himself at him. “Twelve! Do you never give up!”
From the nearby doorstep Naith and Kayah laughed, watching Mis’to and his nephew fighting fiercely on the lawn. “Those two…” Naith shook his head. “Are you sure he’s mine?”
“How dare.” Kayah tweaked his ear, making him squeak. “He’s *definitely* yours.”
Rubbing his ear, Naith grinned. “Really? Because you’re the firecracker out of us two, aye?”
“Oh really.” She gave a brilliant smile, all fangs.
Naith chanced it. “…Really.” And squeaked again as her hand scratched the very base of his tail. “Twelve, not in front of Mis’to!”
“Why not,” Kayah’s eyes sparkled mischievously as she glanced towards the two. Mis’to had Kayah’a in headlock again, both caught in a fit of laughter as the boy struggled wildly to get himself free. “I don’t think he’s paying attention.” Naith had turned scarlet and she laughed, gently rubbing the base of his ear between finger and thumb. “But I think I can get you to pay attention-”
His tail bristling in anticipation, Naith threw a glance back at the two. Yep. They were busy.
No one would miss them for half an hour, surely.
As a younger man, Mis’to didn’t drink. Then Othard happened and…well. These days, sake was always close by. Turned out, he just hadn’t found a brew he liked.
Not the only thing that had bled into him from his Far Eastern days. He had gained a fierce appetite for noodles; enough so that he’d learned how to make them himself. Not as good as the master crafters of Kugane, but good enough that he was more than happy with his efforts. And everyone who came to the Steps, of course.
But then, Mis’to had always been a bit of a sponge for the people and places he hung around. His accent had long blended into some odd pidgin of all the places of Eorzea (Limsa had had a particular effect); one could take a look at him and his clothing and see influence from all across his history; be that the tribal roots of his past, the places of his travels…and, yes, the ostentatious bombast of his red mage training.
With a faint smile he fetched his hat off, gently preened a feather back into place. Funny…he hadn’t planned on surviving to become a red mage. But here he was, and something of the flair of the school had worn off on him.
Probably the fault of his soul crystal. Seemed to respond better when he was making a show of things; almost as if it was comforting to pretend to be a confident charismatic show-off with a nice red hat. Fake it until you make it.
The nice red hat was just the bonus.
(A catch up entry!)
Interesting how different things meant different things to people
He and Morgana sat wordlessly on the beach, watching the sun slowly dip below the Limsa Lominsa horizon as the sky turned to fire. Above and behind the night had already drawn in, the stars lighting up one by one.
For Morgana it was the end of another long day, the night a welcome sign that the work had ended and rest would soon be upon her. For Mis’to, it was the promise of another beautiful night, warm and full of life. He had pondered going out hunting. Much as he had a soft spot for noodles, he’d been craving some of the food of his childhood. A juicy dodo or deer would make for a fine roast.
But that was for later, when Morgana had gone to bed. For now he was content to watch the day fade, spending a few precious, quiet moments with his love.
It had been a long and terrible week.
Many would remember the day of the red moon falling as the Calamity. But for healers like Mis’to, the true Calamity had barely started.
So many dead. He had gone quietly numb to it all, was starting to dread the call for help. But he was a sworn healer, and he would not shirk his duty.
That morning, as he readied himself for sleep, something caught his ear. A sound he was becoming far too accustomed to; the shrill, near hysterical cry of someone who had seen too much and could not cope.
Any other day he would close his eyes and go to rest but…this one. This one was too young.
He rounded the door of the small ward and his heart leapt into his mouth a moment. A young Keeper; barely five, hardly visible beneath the bandages, curling into a tiny ball and screaming his fear and pain to the world.
Without a second thought Mis’to stepped over, resting a hand on the boy’s head and closing his eyes. A few moments to deaden the pain, heal the injuries a little more; yet he continued to cry. No doubt the Calamity had seared his soul as much as his body.
So gently Mis’to picked the boy up, taking great care to not cause any more hurt, cradling him close as he sat on the nearby chair. “Easy, boy,” he whispered, in that old tongue lest he was one of the deep clans. “It’s okay. You’re safe.” A hand reached out to snag a blanket, covering them both. “You’re with me. And nothing’s going to happen any more.”
It as clear it would be a while before the child’s cries quietened; but that did not bother him. Mis’to just sat there, gently stroking his head until finally the sobs lessened and it looked like he might finally fall asleep. Smiling slightly, Mis’to sung a quiet lullaby; one he’d known since he was a small boy himself. Perhaps it would help the boy rest.
Hush now, rest, it is the end of the night
Like us, even She must go to her sleep
But while we dream and slumber
Her sister shines above, a promise to keep
Hush now, rest, do not fear the light
T’is but Her sister, Her warmth and fires
Menphina belongs to the moon and stars
And Azeyma shines high when she tires
Hush now, rest, for Azemya will fight
To keep us safe until the darkness falls
As Menphina, smiling, waves to her sister
As the stars shine out on us all
Throughout the day conjurers would poke their head in and smile at the exhausted Keeper asleep in the armchair and the boy curled up tight in his arms.
Mis’to found his eldest son sitting upstairs, poring over a new book.
He smiled, softly.
Most Keeper men never got to know their children; some quirk of fate had meant both a son and a daughter had crossed his path.
And Liu’a…well…he was not like his father. Mis’to was confident; Liu’a was anxious. Mis’to was keen for adventure. Liu’a liked snuggling up with a book. Mis’to was outgoing and gregarious. Liu’a…not so much.
He wouldn’t change his son for the world.
It was a book on arcanima Liu’a was reading. Mis’to did not understand arcanima. He was not one for maths and geometrics and ugh it gave him a headache just thinking about it. He wasn’t entirely sure that Liu’a got it either. But it was a hope he had, that his children were smarter than him.
“Hey son.” With a grin he lay down besides him, cuddling up.
“Oh, dad!” Liu’a beamed. He had his father’s silvery eyes, and they creased in delight. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Nose in your book eh?” Mis’to ruffled the other’s pale gold hair and he laughed, ears twitching. “How’s school?”
“It’s hard,” Liu’a admitted. “And Morgana has me practicing my words. It’s so much to learn!”
“Are you struggling?”
“Yes - but I’m enjoying it. It’s fun, thinking around problems.” Another smile. For all his worry and strife, Liu’a always looked on the bright side. Like the way he coped with all his stress was to simply imagine the best outcome. Maybe his father should follow his example, Mis’to thought wryly. “Dad! Can I show you what I learned today?”
“Of course,” Mis’to rested an arm around him, beaming. ”Show me.”
Gingerly, Mis’to fetched the glasses from his pocket, putting them on and turning back to the book.
“What are you reading, honey?” called a voice back to him from deeper in the library.
“Just a uh-” He squinted over at the title. Abridged History Of the Sixth Umbral Calamity. Abridged his arse. He could attach a handle to this book and it’d make an effective sledgehammer. “Just reading up on history…”
Morgana came back over with a few tomes herself, a faint smile playing on her lips as she read the title. “Why are you reading that one? Not exactly light reading and…well…”
Mis’to shot her a look over the cover. “I can read.” he said, a touch indignantly.
“That’s not what I was going to say.” She beamed, setting her pile on the nearby table and getting back up. “I was more going to say…certain authors get a little….loquacious with their verbiage. Especially that one.”
“Can you repeat that, but in Eorzean.” He winked. “Or even old tongue. Anything.”
Blushing, Morgana fetched out a much thinner book than the veritable headbasher Mis’to had in his hands. “….Troubacome likes the sound of his own voice. Well. The ink of his own words. Here.” She handed the tome to him with a smile. “…This is *actually* an abridged version. As opposed to well. That.”
The Miqo’te took it with a grin. “…Thanks Morgana.”
It is always hard to return to the Conjurer’s Guild.
Not to see the wounded and injured, or the suffering; though that too is difficult, especially when they are young or frightened. But knowing that once he could help, and now, cannot.
Sighing Mis’to flexed his fingers. They were calloused now; and would have been anyway, but these callouses were from the hilt of a sword and not a staff. In many ways he did not regret learning the ways he had. It had given him purpose when he thought he had lost everything.
But in some ways, it still hurt to remember what he had lost.
He grit his teeth. Not lost. He had to remind himself that. He’d get it back. Some day. Morgana had promised, and he had faith in her.
As he always did.
With a quick brush of his shoulders, a pull to smooth out the leather hide, Mis stepped back to look fondly at her second son before holding him close. There were smiles and laughter between them, but at the same time eyes were dewy, a sadness that couldn’t be dispelled.
“…I will miss you.”
He hugged her back, blinking rapidly. “I will…I will miss you too, ma…”
The Raesthe had a solemn rule. Once a man came of age, he would leave, never to return until his bones grew too weary and he could travel no more.
But by then, she would have gone to Menphina’s side. Both mother and son knew that they would never see each other again.
“…I’m very proud of you.” She brushed that long black hair, run through as it was with white stripes. “You’ve grown to be a fine hunter, and a strong son. Whatever you do…you will make me proud.”
Smiling faintly, Mis’to took her hand, pressed something into it. Two small beads, little charms small enough to thread upon a bracelet. Both were identical, set through with green and white stones, matching the color of their eyes.
“Your tovre…” Mis took one with a little laugh, clutching it tight as if it might disappear.
“You thought I wouldn’t make it?” Mis’to smiled, taking his to thread it through a small leather strap tied to his belt. There was one other there, set through with white stones; a memory for his brother, Mis’a, who had left two years before.
“You will have one for your sisters too?”
“I do.” He smiled softly. “One for….one for every one of my family. My clan-” His voice cracked a second and he coughed, quickly getting himself together. “…I will…I will miss you terribly.”
“As will I. And so will Ose, and Zihvo. And Xohve. And Zawoh….”
“Siova is going to cry a lot,” Mis’to said, sadly. His littlest sister, still barely in her seventh summer, and his perpetual shadow.
“She is, and I will take good care of her.” Mis smiled. “But the road awaits.”
“The road awaits.”
And he was, in many ways, looking forward to it. Adventure awaited, after all. But that first step…those final good byes…that was the hardest part of all.
Some memories hurt too much to confront.
But confront them he should and so, he goes to find that place.
Wouldn’t do to forget them. Much as remembering hurts.
It’s deep in the Shroud. Perhaps a day or two of walking. As forests do, it has changed greatly in seven years. Old trails have overgrown, new ones have sprung up in their wake. But he knows the way. He walked it often, for three years. One last time, seven years ago…
He doesn’t know what he’ll find. Did anyone leave anything to remember them? Did the elementals forbid it? If something was left, was it reclaimed by the land?
Does anything remain of the clan he once knew?
Finding out will hurt.
Not finding out will hurt forever.
Most people don’t know what it means to fight for their life.
Thank the Twelve for that. People don’t need to understand that. Puts a perspective on your world that you can’t entirely change.
Saw it a lot of times back…in the days I could heal. It’s not a fight for life people often think of - most when you say that are thinking stuff like, you know, Primals. They’re not thinking of the ten year old boy who’s come down with severe pneumonia or the victims of a contagion currently sweeping through a distant village. Let me tell you though that battle can be just as rough.
And that’s coming from someone who’s fought Primals. No one likes to talk about what that really *means*. I’m not by far the only person with the Echo but even across the Grand Companies, there’s not that many. And though we might be protected from arguably the worst effect - the ever-dreaded tempering - every person we lose means one more who doesn’t have the Echo has to face them. Ever had to put down someone who was your best friend not five minutes ago? Weighs on the soul, let me tell you.
But still, actually fighting for your life is a moment that can change your entire perspective on things.
I remember that moment all too well. I’d been on a bit of a collision course with death for a while. It was a ‘when’, not ‘if’, and part of me was looking forward to…was desperate to…reach that rest. Long story. Until the moment came, I figured I wanted to die. When the time came and I faced down an opponent that I thought I could take but was in truth far, far stronger than me - I found very much that I wanted to live.
Squinting one last time over the paper, Y’Oshir Jharmin sat up, gently rubbing her forehead. It was looking good. Excellent, in fact. The culmination of a few good month’s work of observation in the light of the strange stymieing of aether. There. Finally she could submit it for review…
“Your elemental interactions are wrong.”
Before she could stop it her brow creased in irritation at the unwelcome intrusion. “ Famoix Troubacome,” she beamed, mustering as much pleasantry as she could after pulling an all-nighter, “I don’t recall asking for your opinion.”
“It is quite wrong.” The insufferable Elezen pointed a finger at the star of elemental interaction.
She squinted, deciding for a moment to allow him the benefit of the doubt. Y’Oshir was tired. Deprived of coffee. Maybe she had missed something.
Fire melts ice, which blocks wind, which blows out fire.
Lightning boils water, which erodes earth, which grounds lightning.
“No that’s correct. Although maybe you’re confused. I have, after all, adjusted it for Urianger’s new findings upon aetherial polarity.”
“No, you are quite wrong, and as always it is the same place.” A finger stabbed at the paper, smudging the fresh ink. “Water puts out fire. See?”
Y’Oshir buried her face in her hands. “Famoix, that is a child’s mistake. That is te real work; but we know aetherical water does not counter aetherical fire-”
“It most certainly does. Did you not read my paper on the Interactions of Elemental Disposition?”
“I did. Was it not rejected by our peers?” She rubbed her head again.
“..It required some reworking-”
You mean, it was completely scrapped due to your idiocy. “Leave me alone, Famoix, I have the most terrible headache coming along and I don’t need your complete fundamental failures on elemental interactions to make it worse.”
Sniffing, he straightened up. “Fine. Have it your way. Submit the wrong thing. I mean, I’m only trying to look out for you.”
With a loud huff, she shook her head and went back to her work. About the only reasons she tolerated him was his peerless knowledge on potions; but in everything else, he was a complete blathering waste of space.
”You know I’m right, Y’Oshir…”
Coffee. She needed coffee. Applied to his face.
He sunk into the hot springs at Kugane in ill-disguised relief, settling in until only his head was above the surface and letting the warms waters soothe tired joints. A few minutes until the shooting pain up his side began to ease, at which point he gently kneaded the gnarly scar tissue there until it vanished entirely, letting him fully stretch out. With a sigh he closed his eyes, smiling faintly as he let the warmth seep into his bones and fought the urge to doze off.
There was no doubt about it. Mis’to was getting old. He joked with people that he stopped counting after thirty but truth was, he knew he was approaching his forty-third summer.
Much of his life had not been still or calm, either. As a young Keeper he’d survived on his wits and skill. As an Adder, he was training or fighting, in some of the most fiercely fought battles Eorzea had known in his lifetime. Even when he took up the way of the conjurer, after the Battle of Silvertear Lake had awakened his Echo along with so many others. Healing involved more than just channeling aether - and certainly in his case, where his strange Echo granted great clarity of how injury and disease eroded the bond between body and soul.
Ten years after the Battle of Silvertear Lake, he’d been at the Battle of Carteneau, one of the many faceless Grand Company troops fighting in defense of their homeland. He’d survived the fall of Dalamud. Then his tale had taken him to Othard; a bitter tale of loss and vengeance he didn’t linger on for long. For seven years he’d been there, learning from an old warrior seeking to heal another’s broken soul. And then, of course, the Rebellion. Ghimlyt…
Mis’to’s tale was writ plain in the myriad of scars he wore and at forty-two, he was already deep into the battle of determined mind against failing body. He could feel it in his when the weather grew cold or damp and the shoulder torn open by Dalamud ached unbearably; when too quick a move sent agony searing up his side; when a long march would send spasms through his chest from a old arrow wound. Twelve, he was at the point where not sleeping in a bed gave him a bad back, and part of his Keeper blood was disgusted at that. He knew at some point, the ravages of time and battle would win -
But the world didn’t stop because he grew old. The need to help people didn’t go away because his back hurt. And no red mage worth his ego would admit he couldn’t backflip any more…
So Mis’to availed of what he had, while the years were still being kind and he could push those aches and pains to another day. Eventually he’d slow down. But not yet.